Learning & Loving: Reflections on my father and my son

Scripture tells us to get understanding, to seek God and wisdom, and to love. These are all joined.

It wasn’t until I had a son that I began to understand contradictions I see in others.

I was born with a sensitive, curious, and social nature. I believe my son was, too. It wasn’t until I saw him grow and begin to engage the larger world beyond our home that I started to recognize just how much the interaction of nature and environment impact individuals. I was able to watch him grow after studying developmental psychology, unlike the years I raised my daughter when I had not yet immersed myself in this information so the experience of mothering was very different.

Let me go back to my own childhood where I watched, with confused eyes, a man of perceived contradictions. My daddy told stories that gave me pause even as a kid. He talked of when he was in the army and would send all of his money back home to help his parents. The only money he kept, according to his story, was enough to buy his beer and cigarettes. I reflect with a smile considering what my face must have looked like when I tried to reconcile a beer drinking, cigarette smoking soldier caring sacrificially for his folks. Well, that was daddy…

I also recall the raucous visits we had with Grandma. Daddy and Grandma would argue and quarrel, each contributing mild profanity to punctuate their points, then move right along into good-natured laughter as if all was well, and it was! That is just how they communicated. I remember Grandma dying and Daddy crying such sorrowful tears as he said, “I’ve lost the best friend I ever had.” Those quarrels hadn’t diminished their bond a bit. In fact, it was part of it, I’ve come to understand…

When I dropped out of high school at the end of 9th grade, Daddy went from intense anger to feeling sorry for me in a matter of days. I well remember him coming to me and saying, in effort to console me, “well, you made it further in school than I did.” It has taken 30+ years for me to find humor in this offer of compassion.

Daddy has an IQ of around 140. He is very bright, still sharp at age 80, but clearly meets criteria for ADHD, something that was unknown when he was a child. His attention still shifts frequently, he is always moving, busy, stirring and cannot bear being idle. I didn’t know when I was a child that ADHD existed and that it is marked by difficulty regulating emotions, attention, and movement. I didn’t know that people with ADHD crave connection, interaction, and engagement but have difficulty maintaining harmonious relationships because of their idiosyncrasies. I didn’t know this leads to frustrations that further complicates all ares of life. I simply didn’t know.

I look back to Noah’s earliest years with a knowing smile. He could not get enough of LIFE! Puttering around, rambling, ongoing commentary on all he saw and felt was the norm. I will never forget our vacation to the beach with Ms. Beth, Ms. Mel, and Jake. Poor Jake buried his head in the covers one afternoon with worn out ears from listening and sore cheeks from too much laughter while Noah tried rousing him for MORE! The difference = nature. By nature, we want more or less, loud our quiet, slow or fast, alone or with others, and how that is met by those in our immediate environments has much to do with what we come to believe about ourselves, others, and the world.

So Daddy, in a world unaware of the great power of inborn nature, was rebuffed and rejected and quashed in school from the beginning, labeled a trouble-maker, and never recognized for having a sharp intellect to be developed. By the time he was Noah’s age, he was over it, ready to ditch the whole school thing and get busy doing something he knew he could do, HARD WORK! He is still at it. It wasn’t until he was in the army that he learned of his high IQ score. It puzzled him. No wonder…

As I watch Noah and some of his antics, I can’t help but wonder about Daddy. Some things are for sure. Daddy could never pass up an opportunity to make someone laugh or gasp or to stir up a little excitement. He is very much a social creature, always wanting to talk or go do some work with buddies. He appears tough. He is tough. But he is also very sensitive and his laughter can quickly turn off and something quite opposite take it’s place. Oh, how I’ve seen this in my son. It looks different on him, only because his experiences have been so different from Daddy’s, and because I now see with understanding eyes. I’m a little older and a little wiser, and very much kinder because of it.

I wish sometimes I could go back, turn back the hands of time, and give my daddy another shot at school and life, but, that is not and was not to be. Instead, the Good Lord, in HIs timing, has used for good so much that for so long was not good. He has taught me the connection between learning, understanding, wisdom, and love. All the positives, the healing, the growing, the forgiving and overcoming would not exist if not for the need. So…I look with thankful eyes to the meeting of need and grace and give abundant thanks for the lessons found there…

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